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Latest News in Israel – 29th July

Updates from Israel and the Jewish World

Compiled by Dr Ron Wiseman

Israel, US carry out successful test of Arrow-3 missile over Alaska

In the face of Iran’s continued development of long-range missiles, Israel and the United States completed a series of tests of the long-range Arrow 3 ballistic missile defense system at the Pacific Spaceport Complex-Alaska (PSCA) in Kodiak, Alaska, which included the successful interception of an “enemy” target.

The series of tests over the course of 10 days saw three successful interceptions. It was the first time that such a test took place outside of Israel. The successful test was attended by Israel’s ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer.

The system was tested against targets similar in behavior to advanced ballistic missiles being developed by Iran, and against future threats that Israel may face. Israel and the US remain concerned that Iran has continued to work on both its nuclear program as well as its ballistic missile program, despite international criticism.

The series of experiments successfully demonstrated the missile’s capability against exo-atmospheric targets. An American AN-TPY2 radar participated in the test and successfully demonstrated operational connectivity between the systems.

“Ten challenging years of development have culminated in this moment: the Arrow 3 weapon system completed a test campaign, during which an Arrow 3 interceptor completed full interception of the target,” said Moshe Patel, director of the Israel Missile Defense Organization. “In addition, the fact that the tests were conducted in Alaska, tens of thousands of kilometers away from Israel, is another significant achievement that demonstrates the operational capabilities of the Arrow 3 system to successfully face any threat,” he added.

“These successful tests mark a major milestone in the development of the Arrow Weapon System,” said Missile Defense Agency (MDA) director Vice Admiral Jon Hill. “This unique success in Alaska provides confidence in future Israeli capabilities to defeat the developing threats in the region. We are committed to assisting the government of Israel in upgrading its national missile defense capability to defend the State of Israel from emerging threats.”

The Defense Ministry delayed the test in Alaska last year following consultations between Washington and Jerusalem, “in order to achieve maximum readiness.” At the time, KTOO news in Juneau reported that the test would be part of the $80-million contract between MDA and the Alaska Aerospace Corp.

In March, Patel said that the test would take place in Alaska because of the “limited ability” Israel had to shut down airspace over the Mediterranean Sea used by commercial airlines. “Arrow 3 is too big for the state of Israel,” Patel told an audience at a panel discussion. “It is supposed to be good against nuclear threats that are coming from Iran. We have limitations in our arena to conduct flight tests because of safety.”

Channel 13’s Barak Ravid first reported on Dermer’s visit on Friday, and quoted unnamed Israeli officials as saying that this was not a usual diplomatic visit but rather a “much more important and even dramatic” trip. According to the report, the visit was concerning an issue “at the core of the US-Israel security relationship” and had to deal with cooperation regarding the threat from Iran.

“Israel and the US have a robust security relationship and vast cooperation on issues ranging from intelligence sharing to missile defense. The event Dermer traveled to Alaska for is another testament for the upgrade in the US-Israel cooperation against Iran,” an official said.

Tehran test-fired a Shahab-3 medium-range ballistic missile on Friday from the country’s south-eastern coastline along the Gulf of Oman. The missile crashed 1,000 km. away in northern Iran.

Israel last carried out a successful missile test in January.

With rising tensions with the Islamic Republic, on Friday Tehran test-fired a Shahab-3 medium-range ballistic missile from the country’s south-eastern coastline along the Gulf of Oman before falling 1,000 km away in northern Iran.

In light of the growing missile threat, Israel and the US have worked together to develop several missile defense systems, including the Arrow 3, which is one of the joint programs co-managed by the US Missile Defense Agency and IMDO, a division of the Israeli Defense Ministry.

Jointly manufactured by Boeing, the Arrow 3 is considered one of the world’s best interceptors due to its breakthrough technological capabilities. It is a highly maneuverable system designed to provide ultimate air defense by intercepting ballistic missiles when they are still outside of the Earth’s atmosphere.

The primary contractor for the integration and development of the Arrow Weapon System was IAI’s MALAM division – responsible for the radar functions – along with Elbit Systems Elisra division that developed the firing management systems, and IAI’s TAMAM division together with IMI and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, which jointly developed the interceptor.

In addition to the Arrow system, Israel’s air defenses currently include the Iron Dome – designed to shoot down short-range rockets – and the David’s Sling missile defense system, which is designed to intercept tactical ballistic missiles, medium- to long-range rockets, as well as cruise missiles fired at ranges between 40km and 300 km.  (Jerusalem Post) Anna Ahronheim

Palestinians throw explosives, hand grenades during Gaza border riots

Thousands of Palestinian rioted along the Gaza-Israel border on Friday, and the Israeli army said some in the crowd hurled explosive devices and grenades toward the border fence in the southern Gaza Strip.

The riots are part of the Hamas-controlled “Great March of Return,” which has seen ongoing violence along the border for more than a year.

Palestinians burn tires to throw over the Gaza border into Israel on May 4, 2018, as part of weekly riots led by Hamas since March 30. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Thousands of Palestinian rioted along the Gaza-Israel border on Friday, and the Israeli army said some in the crowd hurled explosive devices and grenades toward the border fence in the southern Gaza Strip.

The riots are part of the Hamas-controlled “Great March of Return,” which has seen ongoing violence along the border for more than a year.

One military vehicle was reported damaged, though no soldiers were hurt.

A military spokeswoman said troops responded with riot dispersal means and opened fire in accordance with standard operating procedures.

Gaza’s Health Ministry said one Palestinian was killed and 40 others were wounded throughout the day.

It was the first fatality in a few weeks, with Egypt, Qatar, and the United Nations working to keep the border calm.

Gaza officials say about 210 Palestinians have been killed since the weekly protests began more than a year ago. In that time an Israeli soldier was also shot dead by a Palestinian sniper along the frontier and another was killed during an undercover raid into Gaza.

Multiple attempts by Palestinian terrorists to infiltrate Israel under cover of the riots have occurred.  (WIN) Staff

Danon to Nasrallah: You hide it, we’ll find it

Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon warned Hezbollah’s leader that Israel would discover whatever the terror group attempts to hide. (WIN)


Rafi Peretz concedes that Ayelet Shaked will lead Union of Right-Wing Parties

Ayelet Shaked and Rafi Peretz. 

Bayit Yehudi leader Rabbi Rafi Peretz publicly conceded the top spot on a joint electoral list with the New Right to party leader Ayelet Shaked Sunday evening.

Writing on Twitter, Peretz said that he was “happy to give the news that I spoke with Ayelet Shaked… and we agreed that out of national responsibility and concern for a right wing government and the religious-Zionist [public] Ayelet will head the Union of Right Wing Parties.”

Peretz said that he would sit down with New Right co-founder Naftali Bennett later Sunday evening to iron out the remaining issues for a joint electoral run between the Bayit Yehudi and National Union parties and New Right.

Shaked will lead the Union of Right Wing Parties, Peretz will take second spot, National Union leader Betzalel Smotrich will be number three, Bennett number four, and the exact order of the remaining six to be finalised in Peretz’s meeting with Shaked.

Earlier on Sunday, Bennett insisted that New Right would split off from Bayit Yehudi and National Union after the election because of the party’s difference of opinion on issues of religion and state.

“In the Knesset we will operate as an independent faction,” said Bennett during a Facebook live stream video.

“A unity deal is a bus to the Knesset, once we pass that checkpoint we will get off the bus.”

Bennett conceded that voters for New Right would have to vote for Knesset candidates such as Betzalel Smotrich of National Union and Itamar Ben Gvir of Otzmah who they do not agree with, but said that this was the only way to maximise votes on the right wing.

“Yes, you’ll bring in people who you don’t entirely agree with, but we need a big right wing bloc, only that will stop the establishment of a left wing government,” said Bennett.

“Otzmah is with us, yes, they are part of the unity deal, I do not share their opinions, but what can you do, there is diversity [on the right wing] and in elections only Knesset seats are important as they allow you to implement your values.”

Bennett said that he would also be seeking a union with Zehut, and praised Feiglin for having created a dialogue on free-market economics in Israel to combat the high cost of living.

He said that it looked likely that New Right would recommend Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to form the next government but that the party would not allow a third round of elections if he does not succeed in forming a coalition this time around. (Jerusalem Post) Jeremy Sharon

Medical board set to decide if Malka Leifer is feigning mental illness

A court-appointed medical board will determine if Malka Leifer has been feigning mental illness in order to avoid extradition to Australia, where she is charged with 74 counts of sex abuse, The Times of Israel confirmed on Thursday.

The decision by the panel would hold considerable bearing on the ruling that the Jerusalem District Court plans to hand down on September 23 regarding whether the former principal of the Adass Israel ultra-Orthodox girls school in Melbourne is mentally fit to face an extradition hearing.

During a meeting last month, the panel “indicated” that it believed Leifer was faking, a medical official told The Times of Israel, confirming a Channel 13 news report. However, two psychiatrists and a lawyer asked to be given additional documents regarding her psychiatric treatment in prison before making a final decision. The panel has yet to reconvene.

Leifer was whisked out of Australia in 2008 by members of the Adass board as allegations against her were coming to light. She was arrested in Israel in 2014 after Melbourne filed for extradition, but a Jerusalem court suspended the proceedings in 2016, deeming her mentally unfit to stand trial. Accepting the argument of the defense that she was too ill to leave her bed, Judge Amnon Cohen eventually removed all restrictions against Leifer.

However, Cohen ordered that she appear every six months before a medical board that which would decide whether to keep requiring her to receive psychiatric treatment.

Following a police undercover operation that cast doubts on claims regarding her mental state, Leifer was rearrested in February 2018 and has remained in custody since. The operation was launched at the request of Interpol after the Jewish Community Watch NGO hired private investigators who placed hidden cameras in Emmanuel, a Haredi settlement in the northern West Bank, where Leifer had been living. The camera footage showed the alleged sex abuser roaming around the town without any apparent difficulty.

Chana Lomp, the Jerusalem District Court judge who has presided over Leifer’s case since her latest arrest, ordered that she continue appearing before the panel every six months.

The panel was slated to reconvene on July 11, and its members were to be given additional documents that were requested before making a decision.

But Leifer’s attorney Yehuda Fried called in sick and the hearing was pushed off until the following week. It was then canceled altogether after the lawyer went on vacation, a medical official told The Times of Israel.

Both sides reassembled on Thursday, but the hearing was once again adjourned after the chairman agreed to a request from Fried to remove from the panel a doctor whom the attorney alleged held prejudices against his client, Channel 13 news reported. The doctor was on the June 24 panel.

A legal official told The Times of Israel that Fried had sought unsuccessfully to get the notes from the June 24 hearing scrapped from the record.

Fried declined a request for comment.

Malka Leifer

With Israeli courts slated to recess for the month of August, a follow-up hearing has yet to be scheduled and may not take place before the Jerusalem court hands down its own ruling regarding Leifer’s mental fitness for extradition.

If the panel does convene prior to September 23, its ruling is expected to hold considerable weight in Lomp’s decision, given that she ordered the panel to continue meeting.

Meanwhile, one of Leifer’s alleged victims, Dassi Erlich, said she felt “let down again by a system, which should be straightforward but somehow has allowed itself to be manipulated over and over again.”

“Until now it’s been Leifer evading justice, but now her lawyer is exploiting every opportunity to ensure the wheels of justice don’t move forward,” she added.

Despite the seemingly damning evidence provided by the nonprofit JCW, Leifer’s extradition proceedings have dragged on for an additional year, as the court continues to debate her mental fitness. The Jerusalem district psychiatrist responsible for evaluating Leifer, Dr. Jacob Charnes, has changed his mind three separate times regarding whether Leifer is fit for extradition.

In April 2015, he signed off on a legal opinion affirming that she was fit to be sent back to Australia. In December of that year, he signed off on another legal opinion, which reached a contrary conclusion. After Leifer was re-arrested in 2018, state psychiatrists put together an updated legal opinion, once again finding her fit for extradition.

Charnes refused to sign off on the document for several months, but eventually did so. However, when he was cross-examined by the defense on the evaluation late last year, he told the court that he recommended an additional evaluation of Leifer be carried out — a proposal that both sides have rejected.

In February, police opened an investigation against Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman on suspicions that he pressured staff in his office — among them Charnes — to change the conclusions of their psychiatric evaluations to deem Leifer unfit for extradition.

A legal official told The Times of Israel that police suspect Charnes changed his medical conclusion after being contacted by officials in Litzman’s office. Charnes was interrogated under caution in the case against the deputy health minister.

Last month, the Kan public broadcaster reported that police were gearing up to recommend Litzman be indicted for using his office to illicitly provide assistance to alleged sex abusers. (the Times of Israel) Jacob Magid

Over a thousand people march in Tel Aviv to defend LGBTQ lives

Over a thousand people marched in Tel Aviv on Sunday under the banner of “fighting for our lives,” The Jerusalem Post’s Hebrew sister-publication Maariv reported.

The protest took place after a 16-year-old youth was stabbed outside the Beit Dror hostel for LGBTQ teenagers by his brother, in what is widely seen as a hate crime.

Arab-Israeli trans-activist Lila Blilat spoke about her own experiences, which included “conversion therapies” by religious leaders and even witches, at which point she escaped to Tel Aviv.

“I feel bad and sad that even in the place I escaped to… we still have to fight to be protected,” she said.

“Tel Aviv will not prevent the next child being hurt,” she said. “Today I shout: enough! We’re not talking targets or punching bags!”

Deputy-mayor of Tel-Aviv Hen Ariely, who is also a leading LGBTQ rights activist, said that, “a society that sees us as people who need to be “converted” doesn’t accept the plain fact that we are what we are and nothing can change that.”  (Jerusalem Post) Maariv

All Israeli suspects in Cyprus gang rape released; British complainant arrested

Seven Israelis held in Cyprus on suspicion of gang raping a teenage British tourist in Cyprus earlier this month were released from custody Sunday, as police turned their attention to their accuser. The tourist has changed her testimony, saying the sex was consensual but that she filed the complaint against 12 Israeli teenagers because she felt humiliated by the fact that they filmed the act without her consent, Hebrew-language media reported Sunday, citing Cypriot press and police.

“All seven Israelis have been released, since 10 a.m.,” police spokesman Christos Andreou told AFP. “The young woman will be taken to court tomorrow morning (Monday).”

Relatives of the Israelis celebrated their release, singing, “Our father in heaven, how good is God,” in footage broadcast on Israel’s Channel 12 news on Sunday afternoon.

Earlier, a police source said the British teenager had been arrested. “She is facing charges of giving a false statement over an imaginary offense,” the police source told AFP. “Rape never took place,” one police source told Reuters.

Cypriot media said that she is suspected of filing a false complaint against the Israelis because they filmed her during the sex acts without having received her consent to do so.

“As I claimed throughout, there was no rape in Cyprus,” said Nir Yaslovitzh, an attorney for some of the suspects. “The youths who went on a vacation that became a nightmare will return to their homes today. All of them will return home to their families. Cypriot police carried out a professional and thorough investigation.”

Yaniv Havari, another Israeli attorney who represents a number of the suspects, told the Kan public broadcaster that his clients were able to provide convincing evidence that they did not commit the crime.

“She lied, she said 12 of them raped, that is what she claimed,” Havari said. “For nearly two weeks that is what she has claimed and after all 12 of the detainees gave their version, it seems her version doesn’t stand up.”

The dramatic development came after last week five of the Israeli suspects in the case were released and returned to Israel, though Cypriot police seemed poised at the time to file rape charges against at least three of those still being held.

In addition to those three detained suspects, whose DNA had been found at the scene, police had said they believed three other individuals may have been involved in the alleged crime — with analysis of DNA collected from the alleged victim’s body showing three unrecognized samples.

Twelve Israelis in all were arrested in the resort town of Ayia Napa last week on suspicion that they took part in the alleged gang rape. Some reportedly admitted to having consensual sex with the woman, while others were thought to have possibly been present in the room at the time.

The British woman filed a police complaint a week and a half ago against the Israelis, ranging in age from 15 to 18, who were staying at the Pambos Napa Rocks Hotel on the island nation’s southeastern coast.

The woman told the police two of the suspects held her down by the arms as she cried to be let go. She said that their friends then raped her, taking turns, and that several beat her.

Cypriot police found five used condoms and 13 condom wrappers in the room where the alleged rape occurred, reports said.  (the Times of Israel) Staff